And when I say veggie lovers, I mean the hardcore veggie lovers. We start with an eggplant. A lovely medium deeply purple eggplant. Take out whatever you use to peel carrots and use it to peel your eggplant. No tough skin for this recipe. Once you've stripped your eggplant, go ahead and cut it into a medium chop. You should get about 4 cups of chopped eggplant. Next you want to chop both an onion and mushrooms, also getting about 4 cups each.
This is going to be your base for your meatless mixture. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add 4 cloves of finely minced garlic. Let the garlic cook in the oil about a minute, careful not to let it get too brown. Now add you cut vegetables. Because we are working with three of the wettest veggies at our disposal, we want to cook down some of that moisture while adding flavor. No need to add salt. We'll be adding that later. You want to reduce your mixture to about 4 cups total. How long this takes depends on how carefully you cook your vegetable mixture. I'd say roughly 15 to 20 minutes.
So now you've got this lovely flavorful base for your meat mixture. Still you can't form meatballs with it so next we pop it into your food processor and give it a whirl. So it looks like this....
Not very pretty is it? Now it's more like a chunky paste but it still needs some work. We need to get rid of some more of the moisture. This is where I take a dish towel, and placing half the mixture in the dish towel, twisting the towel so you can torque the liquid out and SQUEEZE. The more liquid you get out now, the more your meatballs will taste better when cooked so don't wimp out on this step. Repeat with the other half of the mixture. Once you've done your best female Russian shot-putter imitation...
...put the entire mixture in a bowl. Next chop up a half a cup of oil cured olives into a fine dice. I like adding olives for their salty meaty flavor. Mix well with your meat mixture. You also want to add a half a cup of diced shredded mozzarella. I don't like leaving the larger texture of the shredded cheese in the ball, so go ahead and dice it down a bit. Now for some flavorings. Since I'm making meatballs to go with spaghetti, I used a liberal sprinkling of a Italian dried herb non-salt mix I found in the spice aisle at the grocery store. I also added 2 tablespoons of minced fresh basil. I have not added any salt because the olives are already salty and I don't think it needs any. You, however, are free to go wild with whatever flavorings you enjoy. Don't forget to taste it and adjust. Once you do have the flavor of the mixture the way you want it, there's one more step. As long as you successfully went Irina on getting the moisture out of your trifecta of veggies, we're going to add a binder back into the mixture. You'll need two egg yolks and roughly a slice and a half of white bread. You want to mixture the two together until you get a paste.
Mix well into your vegetable mixture. If all has gone according to plan, the mixture should hold together well. To form the meatballs, you have two choices....coat your hands with olive oil and form the balls with your hands or if you got a small ice cream scoop, you can coat that with olive oil and scoop up the meat mixture. Either way, you will want to drop them on a silpat lined cookie sheet and bake them in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about twenty minutes.
Now, I'm not trying to replace meat in your world and frankly this recipe only works if you like the flavor of onions, eggplant and mushrooms but let me tell you, it's pretty damned tasty. It's still moist, the olives give it just the right tang and the fresh basil makes a great Italian compliment to your sauce. It's really not that hard to make and I bet they freeze well so making a big batch will be a time saver in the long run. Plus if you grow your own eggplant and onions in your backyard garden, you will be set when ground beef prices go up and up. Eating more vegetables doesn't have to mean losing out on flavor. Bon Appétit.